This blog post includes resources and links for the workshop session “Switched onto Successful Access to Mobile Tablets” at the Spectronics Inclusive Learning Technologies Conference May 2014 .
Please view the slides here:
Considerations for success
We know that using a tablet requires particular gestures such as swiping and tapping which people with physical impairments are not able to perform. Since tablets hit the market we have had many developers working in the disability field who have crated apps and hardware to enable individuals with physical disability to access them. Once you have worked through an assessment framework and decided on the tablet hardware there are further considerations such as the switch interface and type of switch, positioning and mounting the switch and tablet and additional accessories. The following resources provide you with some assessment considerations when you are looking at switching, whether it is with a tablet or other hardware.
Resources for assessing and developing switch skills
You may be working with someone who is a beginner to switching or someone who is further down the track with well established skills. The following websites give you some steps to help you get past that initial stage of cause and effect and helping the individual learn to use switches functionally for communication or navigation around the tablet.
Switch interfaces for tablets
Before you start switching with a tablet you will need a switch interface along with the switch. Some interfaces have the switches built into them and some are wireless. These are some of the switch interface options available currently:
- Blue2 Bluetooth Switch (iOS and Android)
- Applicator iPad switch interface (iOS only)
- Receive Micro with Simply Works range (Android)
- Simply Works for iPad (iOS only)
- Switchbox (iOS only)
How do I connect the switch interface to the tablet?
The following video clips demonstrate how you can pair a switch interface with either an iOS or Android device.
Switch Accessible apps
Some developers have made apps that are switch accessible. You do not need to set up any other switch control settings other than what is within the app itself.
Switch control in iOS7
Recently, Apple included switch control into the iOS7 update. I wrote about this change in this blogpost which includes some great videos on setting up 1 or 2 switches and some links to other resources such as a guide to Switch Control in iOS7.
In addition to the useful videos on setting up 1 or 2 switches you can see the difference between Item scanning and Point scanning in these short videos.
Tracker Pro and Android
The Android options for controlling an ipad are quite flexible and you also have the option of mouse control. Watch this video to observe how you can use the mouse control with a switch using the Tracker Pro.
Over the past few years I’ve had many a phone call relating to switch interfaces. These are a few of the tips and tricks I have learned along the way.
1) The keyboard has disappeared – because the switch interface is interpreting the switch press as a keyboard press it can cause some confusion on the tablet. Sometimes you might find that you have turned off switching options and gone to type a note up and the keyboard doesn’t come up. Don’t worry too much. You can often find a little button on the switch interface with an icon of the keyboard. Press this and your keyboard should pop up. Otherwise just do a complete shutdown of the tablet and you should find it appears again.
2) The switch isn’t working
If the switch isn’t working I would try to pair the interface again which might require telling the tablet to “forget” the switch interface and start from scratch. Check your settings or mode for the switch interface. Some of them have modes that do specialized functions eg. operate the camera, play timed music. And it can often come down to hardware – maybe the switch itself needs a look at. Try it out with other devices or a switch operated toy to see if it’s behaving correctly.
3) Can I use a physical keyboard?
It is possible to plug in a keyboard or use a bluetooth keyboard and operate it as a switch. If plugging in physically you need the Camera Connection kit for and iPad. Most Android devices will have a USB port for a keyboard. This will work for some specific apps that have been programmed for using switches such as the HelpkidzLearn apps. Many of them use “SPACE” and “ENTER” keys so if you don’t have a switch or switch interface handy then the keyboard can be a temporary option.
Using a switch in motivating fun ways
Last but not least there are some great functional activities you can use with students to motivate them with their switch use whether they are starting out or well on their way.
Using special lightbulbs, wireless bridge and an app (in the video we are using the Philips Hue Lights)
Camera and Music control
- Everybody say “Cheese!” – using a switch to take a photo or video on the iPad
- Listen to the music – using timed play and switches on the iPad
Please contact us if you have any comments or questions about using a switch with a tablet.